Showing posts with label tea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tea. Show all posts

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Barry’s Tea. Favourites for more than a century.

Barry’s Tea. Favourites for more than a century.
Wall of Tea

As the 19th century turned into the 20th, a blacksmith’s son from Ballyhooly came to Cork city to work in a shop. Soon, in 1901, he became a “counter-jumper” and set up his own shop dealing in Tea, Wine and Spirits. That entrepreneurial country boy, James J. Barry, was the great grandfather of Tony Barry, our host on a tour of the Barry's Tea factory in Cork earlier in the week.

The first Barry's Tea Shop was in Bridge Street and, by the 60’s, Tony told us that they were well known for tea. His father was then running the business - the shop now in Princes Street -  and had a lucky break. Marketing was barely known as a science in those days but a young man asked to do a study on the firm and discovered a gap, a gap that Barry's turned into an opening. The young man found that Barry's Tea was very well liked but that many customers had trouble getting to the shop to buy. The solution was to distribute to other shops around the city and Madden’s, Bradley's and Smith’s were among the first.

Marketing, by the way, wasn't exactly new to the Barry’s. Back in 1939, they recruited three elephants from a  visiting circus and marched them down the traffic-free city streets "with tea chests strapped on!”  Read more of the Barry's Story here.
We were there, at their current Kinsale Road facility, as part of a group of Munster Wine and Dine members. MWD member Stuart Musgrave knows Barry’s well and was indeed once one of their rivals. But he reckons, always did, they make the best blended tea in the world.

And Barry's, who nowadays employ 65 people, certainly know their stuff. Tony explained a bit. “Rwandan teas give a good colour but are very light. So you need something for strength and India provides that. Still, you don't want something too strong either so add a contribution from Kenya and you’ll have a good all round bend.”

The tea plant, a bush, grows in equatorial areas. The bushes grow like a hedge, making it easy to pluck the leaves. Hand-plucking is still very common. It is a natural product. After plucking, nothing is added. Green tea and black tea comes from the same type of plant. “The green is steamed and rolled and is fresher while the black is withered and fermented.”
Tony Barry, standing left, invites us to taste
He told us that there are similarities between wine and tea, that terroir matters in both. “So how do you know where to get the best?” someone asked. “Well, “ he smiled. “We’ve been around for over 100 years. We know where to get the best teas, where the best tea gardens are. We have lots of contacts now and they know what we want.”

“Tea is not a complicated business, “he said. “But you do need to get each part right, from sourcing to blending to distribution and sales. It is not traded as a commodity so we don’t have to buy futures.” Still, when there is a high quality crop, they aren't slow in building up their stocks.

We had a few samples of traditional teas and not so traditional (including apple/pear flavoured and Berry Berry) before we began our walkabout. First stop was the the real Tasting Room with veteran tastier Denis Daly doing the honours. The window is north facing window here - they want natural colours, not a tea turned a flattering gold by the morning sun!
Berry Berry

The samples enabled us tell the difference, at least for that moment, between the various teas from Asia and Africa and then we were off on our factory walk. First we saw the high stores of palleted tea, some in vacuum packs, stamped with exotic names such as those from the gardens of Gatunguru in Kenya. “Some of these gardens are in the most beautiful areas of the world.” That vacuum packed tea could last for a few years but Barry's like to rotate within the year.

Then we saw the blending area followed by the packing and the boxing. Amazing to see the tea-bag machine in action, making no less than 2,000 bags per minute! Next came the boxes being packed, by robots, into large packs for transport via container.

Indeed, there was a container load lined up for export to the USA - they export about 11% of the total. The working day was drawing to a close and so was our eye-opening informative tour. Reckon I'll never look at the humble cup of tea in the same complacent way again!
Check out the Barry's website, including online shop, here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week

Mariko Sparkling Green Tea

Back on the tea trail again today for our Taste of the Week. It comes all the way from Ballina (County Mayo) and the full title is Mariko Sparkling Sencha Green Tea. No calories or sweeteners in the 250 ml bottle (also available in 750 ml size). The “luxury” green tea leaves are “uniquely brewed” into a lovely thirst-quenching, healthy, refreshing and delicious cool drink.

Christine McAndrew is the lady behind Mariko Sparkling Green Tea and she is also founder of Pure Glan Food Ltd, which has been providing fresh food service to national and secondary schools for over a decade. Read all about the tea (it can also be used in cocktails, punches and cordials) here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
Organic Relaxing Tea
I got mine at Schull Farmers Market.
Also available online - see website below.

A relaxing cup of tea. How often have you heard that said. And much truth in too, particularly if you sup in good company.

How about a relaxing cup of Relaxing Tea? No kidding. I have here in my hand a pack of Organic Relaxing Tea from the Peppermint Farm and Garden in West Cork.

Lots of teas around this house, I can tell you, And it took a while to get around to this one. Not sure that it is more relaxing than some of the others but it does slow things down - after all, brewing time alone is ten minutes! Must say though that it is very enjoyable and that is a big step on the way to relaxation.

The ingredients are basil, chamomile and peppermint and I like the line on the pack: “if you are strained this tea will help you relax”. Humour too in the names of some of the many other teas available from the farm, e.g. Splendid Women's Tea, Kicked Back Evening Tea, Cupid’s Delight Tea (I wonder what’s in that one!) and Banish Exhaustion Tea.

Peppermint Farm is run by Doris and Achim Hoffmann. They do much more than blend and sell teas and you may read all about them here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bobas Bubble Tea. A New Kind of Cuppa!

Bobas Bubble Tea

Called into the Bobas Bubble Tea Cafe in McCurtain Street yesterday, not really knowing what to expect.

Had heard that the Bubble Tea trend had started in Taiwan back in the 1980s but we were to be treated to the up to date European experience by manager Louise McCormack who opened the Cork shop early in the summer. It is proving quite a hit, particularly with the students from the nearby schools.
What mix will you have?

And their parents can be pleased enough as the youngsters are showing good food sense here; the tea drinks are a healthy alternative to fizzy drinks. “They have less sugar and less calories than a smoothie, no caffeine and the green tea is packed with antioxidants.”

Not surprisingly the European style is more popular here but you can also get the Asian style which relies more on milk. Louise is working on a new menu at the moment and basically Bobas will be going with the tea (and Toppings) on its own or with Pizza (slice) or Pasta (pot). And they hope to add frozen yoghurts in the new year.

Well, what about the tea? We had a look at the menu and picked the Peach and Passionfruit. The base tea was Jasmine Green which was put through the “machine” where it picked up the bubbles. Then Louise added the toppings, Popping Balls of Mango and Passionfruit, and also some jelly and served the cool drink to us in its container.

Louise on duty at Bobas

It was absolutely gorgeous, a very pleasant experience indeed. And a bit of fun as well as the popping balls came through the relatively large straw! I reckon those students and young professionals who are trooping to the cafe know a thing or two about good taste!

Bobas have a special Chritsmas Tasting Night coming up but you’ll need to book soon. Check it out on their Facebook page

Cafe Details
Manager: Louise McCormack
087 213 2753
42b McCurtain Street, Cork
Opening Hours:
11am-7pm Mon-Sat and closed on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I like the cha cha cha

I like the cha cha cha

They like to cha cha cha, they like to cha cha cha 
Everybody likes to cha cha cha

I used to love that old Sam Cooke song and now I got another Cha Cha Cha in my life. For the past few days I’ve been sampling three Cha green teas that I bought from Fixx Coffee  in Dublin. 

Cha Very Berry Tea received the accolade of a Gold Star in the Great Taste Awards 2012. They are handpicked and sourced from single estates at the foothills of the Himalayas. “Our Cha Teas are organic and certified by the EU Regulatory Authorities”.

Opened up the packet and picked the Golden Mango, with naturally extracted flavours of Mango and Vanilla, for the first tasting. The aromas were absolutely fantastic. But would they be too much for the flavours. No. Sure, I still savoured the smells but also loved the flavours. Wow. What a winner! A delicious flavour enjoyed either hot or cold, I’m told, but I haven’t tried it cold yet.

Then on to the Spring Mint. The aromas here were unmistakably those of spearmint, really cool and clean. A beautiful cup, fragrant and cooling. Must make sure I have some in for the summer.

The teabags are made from non chemical bleached filter paper and each tin contains 25 x 1.5g teabags (Tin Size 37.5g).

Finally, it was the turn of the Pure Green. Pure tea, boy, supple and dry, unhindered by any fancy flavours yet doing the job in a firm yet calm and relaxing manner. That it is full of antioxidants helps!

Cha Teas perform best when brewed for 2-3 minutes at 90C and served in a 250-300ml cup. Keep an eye on your cuppa – use a timer! You don’t want to spoil a good thing.

The teas were part of an offer on the Fixx Coffee site and naturally there was also some coffee on offer. I tried their Cubita Roasted Beans. They said this “is an exquisite coffee that has strong earthy tones, with a hint of smokiness and a caramel finish, it is the most popular brand of coffee in Cuba”.  Must say I agree one hundred per cent with the tasting notes here. A classic in a cup!

So now I move from Cha Cha Cha to Bolero: the music beating insistently out in the sun, load conversastions, a cup of cubita on the table and an eye out for the señoritas. Only an eye though as  mi señora, who also loves the cubita, is keeping an eye on me!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine's: from tea to wine to aphrodisiacs


Seems to be confusion galore about St Valentine, the Patron Saint of Lovers. How many saints of that name were there? Anything from one to fourteen, depending on where you read.

Hard to say then if the real Valentine enjoyed a cup tea or a glass of wine, two suggested ways of celebrating next Tuesday, the first recommended by Nash 19, the second by the folks at the Wine Store.

Nash 19 may not have saintly approval but Mairead O’Brien quotes Henry James: “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony know as Afternoon Tea.” Nash 19 will be serving Afternoon Tea in Honour of St Valentine during February and March. The daily slot is 2.45 to 4.00pm, booking is essential (021 4270880) and cost for two is €38.00.

Mrs Tyrrell of the Wine Store tells me they love their Northern Rhone wines and would love to share some with you this month. “The list of the wines in this offer include many that are not normally listed on the site, some are only available in very limited quantities.” Looks like a special to me and well worth checking out here.

Must say, I enjoyed my Plan de Dieu during last summer’s trip to the area and spotted one on the list - Côtes du Rhône Villages, Plan de Dieu 'Le Temps est Venu' 2010. It is down from 15.95 to 13.95. And there are decent deductions on the prices of Condrieu and Côte Rôtie. Certainly worth a look. But hurry if you want a Rhone special in for the big day!

If you want to really impress why not check out the Fotal Island Hotel. They have some tempting packages here.

And, if you’re truly daring, or just chancing your arm, the Town Bar and Grill in Kildare Street (Dublin)  have a Special aphrodisiac menu on for Valentine’s Day!

Sunday, December 4, 2011



There was a lot of interest in our recent post on the special Santa pack from Barry’s Tea. Briefly, Barry’s Tea created the limited edition Santa’s Tea box which is for sale exclusively on for tea fans at home and abroad. The box is only €3.25 which is a winner for stocking fillers and sending to family and friends across the world via The Online Tea Shop

Now the good news is that they are giving us ten packs for a free contest, a contest that you may enter from home and abroad. But you need to get cracking. Tuesday next (Dec 6th) is the final date for posting abroad. So move on over to our Facebook and just press like or comment and all entries will go into the hat next Monday at noon Irish time and the ten winners will be chosen.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Miss Ireland, Holly Carpenter

Barry’s Tea has created a limited edition Santa’s Tea box which is for sale exclusively on for tea fans at home and abroad. The box is still only €3.25 which is a winner for stocking fillers and sending to family and friends across the world.

The Online Tea Shop, which hosts a range of Barry’s Tea blends, from the flagship Gold Blend and the varied Speciality range, to bespoke Barry’s Tea merchandise has been a huge hit with Irish abroad. For Christmas 2011, Barry’s Tea is introducing a special edition Santa’s Tea box for Barry’s fans at home and abroad.

The store was designed to meet the needs of Barry’s Tea fans abroad who otherwise have no access to their favourite tea brand. Barry’s Tea fans in the UK are the biggest users of Barry’s Tea online store followed closely by USA, Australia and, in fourth place, Germany.

Camille O’Flanagan from Barry’s Tea said “So many Irish abroad are delighted that Barry’s Tea have created an Online Tea Shop where they can purchase their favourite blend. It’s a fantastic feeling to be able to send our blends direct from our home in Cork to anywhere in the world.”

Note: An Post recommend posting all parcels and packages before December 6th for deliveries to arrive in time for Christmas in all countries outside of Europe.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Cha teas, handpicked and sourced from single estates at the foothills of the Himalayas, are being introduced to Ireland and the UK by Dublin based Cafe de Cuba. I’ve been sampling the newcomers, which are all organic.

I like my blacks so I started with the Pure Black. This is a fine strong smooth cup of tea to start the day with. The addition of a little milk didn't spoil the flavour (I prefer it black but someone else doesn’t!).

The classic Earl Grey was next up. This is indeed very pleasant and I loved both the gorgeous aroma (bergamot and vanilla) and that terrific taste.

Then I began to get to the ones that I thought I mightn’t like, starting with the Golden Mango. But I needn’t have worried. It doesn’t have quite the same heft as the first two but is nonetheless a very pleasant drink. They say it can be enjoyed hot or cold. I had it hot but must try it cold sometime.
In the 80s when Jack Charlton brought the Republic of Ireland to play Munster in a warm-up game in hot conditions, tea was supplied to the internationals to cool them down in the old dressing rooms at Turner’s Cross.

Don't think they had the Cha Spring Mint in which is a cooling blend and may be enjoyed hot or cold. Again I had it hot and found it pleasantly aromatic with a moderately strong flavour (the mint is not at all overpowering) but it is one that I will try cold.

Then on to Pure Green. No big aroma and a moderate , rather dry taste with no bitter after taste found in some other green teas. Perhaps it is what goes on in the background is the important thing to note as it is rich in anti-oxidants, relaxing and calming.

There is another tea in the range that I didn't get to try and that is the Very Berry, “a green tea with naturally extracted flavours of strawberry, raspberry and cherry. Very refreshing tea that can be enjoyed either hot or cold”.

Quite a choice and you can take it that my favourites are the black and the grey but I’d have no problem whatsoever with sipping a cup of any of the others at any time.

Cafe de Cuba, as you might expect, also sell coffees and I’ll be taking a look at their range soon. If you can’t wait, why not check out the site.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011



“Here's a bit of a treat and a bargain to boot,” said Michal Creedon of Bradley’s (North Main Street) as he introduced his latest offer: a bottle of Taylor’s First Estate Reserve Port at €9.99.

Novice port drinkers can do no better than to begin here: First Estate is a soft and glorious mouthful. It is an outstanding vintage character blend, made at the very first property purchased by the company, Lugar das Lages, in 1744. Rich, fruity and elegant, it is aged for four years in cask and is ready for drinking immediately.

As enjoyable before a meal as after, they say. I’ve tried both ways and it is true. Really nice and a great price. But Bradley’s, who have a huge range of spirits, beers and wines, have a string of other quality wines on offer for less than a tenner. Check out this list.

Botter Prosecco €9.99
Masseria Pietrosa Salice Salentino €9.99
Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir & Louis Jadot Macon Lugny both €9.99
Antinori Santa Cristina & Orvieto, both €8.99
Marques de Riscal Tempranillo & Rueda white, both €8.99
Curio Bay Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) €7.99
Montes Reserva range (Cabernet, Merlot & Chardonnay) all €6.99.

The long established North Main Street shop has recently began selling drink of another kind: loose leaf tea, just like the old days.

Black Teas include Assam, Darjeeling Singtom, Earl Grey Blue Flower and Black Chai.

Green Teas available include China Organic Mao Feng and Jasmine Superior.

Pu-erh, Rooibos, Herbal and Fruit teas are also included. For more details, check here

Wednesday, August 10, 2011



Been falling behind on my coffees (mainly due to the long holiday – didn’t take any of my specials with me).
These specials are coming to me monthly, thanks to my membership of the Robert Roberts Connoisseur Club.  I’m not the connoisseur, by the way, but I sure am enjoying these offerings.

They changed continents in May, moving from South America to Africa, to Malawi in particular. And Roberts came up with a gem here: Malawi Mzuzu AAA. The co-op produces some cracking examples of Arabica coffee.

This had a substantial body, well balanced from start to finish and one that you won't be leaving behind you until you finish it off.

The June offering also came from Africa, from somewhat further north. It is Organic Ethiopian Yiracheffe. This is aromatic and quite rich, darker than the Malawian because Master blender Gareth Scully wanted to “ensure those wind and earthy citrus flavours are there with a good spicy aroma and a full syrupy aftertaste”.

Must admit I’d find it difficult to discern all the scents and flavours mentioned by Gareth but it is certainly one good cup of coffee.

It is back cross the Atlantic for the July pack: Organic Peruvian Cecovesa. I haven’t opened that yet but better get a move on before the August offering arrives.

On the tea front, I’ve been enjoying recent purchases from Little Buddha  in McCurtain Street, particularly the plain Shu Pu Erh, a four year old from the Menghai district in the Yunnan province of China.

The other loose tea I have at present is Pu Erh Pomegranate and Nettle (also includes orange peel and thistle flowers). This flavoured mix (79% black Pu Erh) has quite a sweet smell in the bag but that doesn’t mean the tea in the cup smells of seeds and flowers. 

It does have a flowery scent for sure and that is transferred, in  a very moderate way, to the cup, which I find, somewhat to my surprise, quite tasty indeed. A nice change from the straight Pu Erh.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Howling Gale, Shu Pu Erh and Country Loaf


Got a good nose for that those strange things the experts find when they sniff a sample of wine? No wine in Little Buddha’s in McCurtain Street but you could certainly give your sniffing "muscles" a workout in this treasure trove of teas and coffees from around the world.
Black tea

Called in there today, after a longish absence, on the lookout for some Pu-erh, the black Chinese tea. They had at least six on the packed table (must have been about 100 types altogether). 

Lifted the lids on the big jars and sniffed. Some were very flowery (you could see the petals  and stems) and in the end I settled for some Shu Pu Erh and some Pu Erh Pomegranate and Nettle.

The first is a four year old loose black tea, from the Menghai district in Yunnan province, the second is 79% tea to which have been added nettle leaves (7.2%) and pomegranate seeds (1.3%).

I let slip that I had been drinking branded varieties of Pu Erh. The lady was rather shocked. “Oh, those are very weak.”  She warned. “These are much stronger. For the morning, not for the evening.”

They also have a big selection of flavoured coffees and lots of accessories. If you can't get into town (to give those sniffers a test), then the next best thing to view the website.

North Main Street proved fruitful. Called into Michael in Bradley’s  for some Howling Gale made by the Eight Degree Brewery  in Mitchelstown.

Man does not live by beer alone so next stop was Daily Bread, just a few doors up, where I bought a lovely Country Loaf. The young lady behind the counter while plying me with a sample of their breads along with some tasty Spanish ham told me they had recently taken over the shop and would have some publicity material available shortly. I’ll let you know.

O’Brien Chop House are well known for their Curry Nights but there are some big differences on July  22nd as the event is being held in Ballyvolane House and is in aid of charity. Get the details here